Much Ado About Nothing
Director Joss Whedon had his fill of explosions and big-budget action with his superhero film Avengers Assemble – so by way of a palate cleanser, he turned to Shakespeare. Filmed in two weeks at Whedon's own house, with a gaggle of actors from his previous productions, it's very much a personal project.
Relocating Shakespeare's romantic comedy to the present day, the director dials up the sexuality and infuses the film with his own charm; although he's known for his dialogue and wordplay, Whedon proves that when working from another writer's script, he's equally adept at subtle visual comedy.
Safety Not Guaranteed
This little gem of an indie flick is everything that so few big-budget flicks are: quirky, charming, packed with realistic characters, genuinely heartwarming and unafraid to take a few risks. It starts off as the story of a trio of journalists tracking down a man who’s placed an ad seeking a companion for time travel, but quickly becomes something else entirely. Or rather, it becomes several things - a touching romance; a coming-of-age movie; a lament for opportunities missed. But mostly it just becomes a great film.
– Marc McLaren
More after the break...
Barry Levinson's made some fine films in his time - Rain Man, Sleepers, Wag The Dog - but The Bay is his best in years. It's best described as an environmental horror but it's more 'tons of gore' than 'Al Gore', and all the better for it. The film is shot in the found-footage style, but that doesn't grate as much as you might expect - although Levinson's insistence on proving that he knows about FaceTime, Skype and mobile video can get a bit tiresome. Overall, though, it's a timely warning about what we're doing to the planet, without ever being preachy about it.
- Marc McLaren
With Peter Capaldi taking over the TARDIS as the newly-minted Twelfth Doctor, what better time to take a look at his Time Lord predecessors – especially since Netflix has just added the first half of season seven to its line-up? Revived in 2005, the sci-fi show finally had the budget to realise its potential; rubber monsters and wobbly sets were consigned to history, and in their place were CGI vistas and armies of Daleks. And the writers of the show – fans like Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss – had long nursed ambitions of bringing it back to the small screen; their affection for the material is evident in every line.
But it's no mere nostalgic throwback; the new Doctor Who is thoroughly modern in its approach, with rich characters and intricately-plotted story arcs. Watch an episode like Russell T Davies' Midnight, with its character-driven drama and wildly imaginative writing, and it's clear that it deserves every one of the awards it's scooped up.
Something of an oddity in Quentin Tarantino's back catalogue, Death Proof was originally released as a double bill with Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. The Grindhouse double-bill flopped, but Tarantino's half – bumped up to full feature-length in an extended cut – is a gleeful homage to the heyday of the exploitation movie. Mashing together slasher flick conventions with the muscle cars from 70s road movies, it culminates in a breathtakingly tense setpiece: stuntwoman Zoë Bell clings to the bonnet of a speeding Dodge Challenger while Kurt Russell's Stuntman Mike tries to run her off the road.